Finance

Christie Embraces Budget Strategies He Criticized as a Candidate

October 30, 2013

Running for New Jersey governor in 2009, Chris Christie hammered the Democratic incumbent, Jon S. Corzine, for using “one-shot gimmicks” to balance the budget, called it “unconscionable” to take away property tax rebates and railed against issuing more debt for transportation projects, promising to “start saying no to spending.”

But in four years in office, Governor Christie, a Republican, has relied on the same kind of short-term strategies, diverting money for things like affordable housing and property tax rebates to balance the budget, and tapping funds intended for development of new sources of energy to keep the lights on in state buildings.

Mr. Christie made headlines when he declared he was canceling construction of a tunnel under the Hudson River to halt runaway costs, but he has issued more debt for transportation projects than any of his predecessors. Overall spending has risen 14 percent, and while state surpluses nationwide are growing, New Jersey’s has shrunk to its lowest percentage in a decade. The state’s bond rating is among the worst in the country.

Mr. Christie’s record is drawing scrutiny now, not only because he is emphasizing that he “restored fiscal sanity” to the state as he seeks re-election next week, but also because of his possible presidential candidacy: As a Northeastern Republican, he needs a way to connect with the party’s conservative base, and a strong message of fiscal management could help him offset skepticism about his positions on social issues.

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